22 June 2007

Alpine Solstice Hike

The first day of summer blazed in with hot 80 deg F temperatures--a good day to head for the mountains. RTD and I loaded up, drove to the Pintler, and found the Many Miles Lake trailhead. Thankfully, our good hiking friends in Anaconda have (once again) removed the FS trail marker sign in an effort to keep the searching hordes out of the Last Best Alpine Cirque.

Looks like a good year for beargrass blooms. They don't flower every year, but seem to like these wet springs. Here are some at mid-elevation (c. 8,000 foot) level:

It was hot as all hell hiking up the steep trail that brings you over from Many More Miles drainage to Many Miles Lakes. My bad for getting a late start. Normally, I'm on the trail by 7 am in hot weather, but Jan, AJ, and I fished until dark last night. Oh yeah, AJ caught his first trout on a dryfly. I told him he had to eat that first one raw, and I think he would have if I could have kept a straight face just 10 seconds longer:

Anyway, over the ridge and into the cirque and wasn't RTD happy to find a snow field and cool down:
Just a little further, and we were at Many Cutthroat Lake. Wow, it's still spring here at 9,000 feet, with golden glacier lillies, purple roosterheads, and tiny spring beauties. The latter have been my favorite since I learned to spring turkey hunt in Pennsylvania on Big Flat at the headwaters of Kinzua Creek. There, I would hide and call in a gobbler, shivering in the cool early-May dawn while listening to the birds and admiring the first flowers of spring:

Like most places in western Montana, even this remote hanging valley was not left untouched by the ravages of the Anaconda Copper Mining company. The company was caught illegally poaching cord wood c. 1900 on the newly created National Forests (i.e. Forest Reserves), and had to abandon the stacked logs. There are dozens of these piles scattered around the lakes: Time for a cup of tea. It's nice to sit on a log, look over the lake to the edge of the world (the lake's outlet), and wait for the water to boil (oh yeah, and swat mosquitoes): No, believe it or not, EcoRover does NOT kill trout everytime he goes out. But there is nothing like a mess of fat cutthroats for supper: As I fished, the air cooled and the billowy cumulus clouds began to tower and develop dark underbellies. Just as I finished cleaning the trout and packing them in snow, the thunderstorm broke. It felt good to hike back across the ridge to the trailhead in a downpour, and the nearby lightning strikes along the ridge were only mildly terrifying. And, with a few beers stashed in the creek for the ride home, life is good no matter how wet you are.

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